the results of research about the history of the town of Schaghticoke
An Insight into the 18th Century: The Inventories of the Estate of Andrew and Eve Diver
April 12, 2013Posted by on
Most people in Schaghticoke are familiar with the Diver Library, donated to the village by Alexander and Arvilla Diver around 1940. This post is about the Divers who lived in Schaghticoke about 1800, Andrew and Eve. Eve was born in the 1740’s in Dutchess County, part of a large family which had come to the New World from what is now Germany. Andrew Diver probably immigrated to the area from Great Britain as a young man. Andrew and Eve Overocker married about 1760 in Kingston and moved to the Schaghticoke/Pittstown border area just before the Revolution. Eve’s family moved as well. There are still Overockers in the area. By 1800, Andrew was one of the ten wealthiest men in town, as was Eve’s brother, Jacob Overocker. Andrew’s wealth of over $10,000 was primarily in real estate. He and Eve had seven children.
Andrew died without a will in 1809, and Eve died just months later. They are buried in the Lutheran Cemetery at the junction of Melrose-Valley Falls Road and Northline Drive in Melrose. Since they died without wills, the estate of Andrew and Eve had to be inventoried and go through probate. One interesting insight gained in looking at the file is that neither Eve nor her eldest son Michael could write- both signed legal documents with an X.
Andrew’s widow, Eve, was named administratrix of the estate, along with her brother Martin Overocker; Jacob Yates, son of the local Revolutionary War Colonel; and James Brookins, himself an officer in the Green Mountain Boys, and now a neighbor. John and Henry Grawberger, Jr., “two competent persons,” acted as appraisers.
Settling the estate was certainly complicated by its size and by the death of Eve just a few months later. It was still not settled in September 1813, when Martin Overocker, who now had chief control of the affairs of the estate said he had a “bodily indisposition,” and was too weak to appear before the Surrogate. Apparently the heirs, the surviving children of Andrew and Eve: Andrew and Daniel Diver and Catherine Woolf, were finding that there wasn’t nearly as much cash to inherit as they thought. They charged that the estate administrators had received goods, chattels, and credits of their father in large amounts not accounted for. Martin explained that “A considerable part of the money that the heirs claim has been paid in the management of the estate and that he alone is competent to explain matters to the heirs,” but couldn’t, due to his illness. In other words, the money had been spent to keep the estate going, collect its debts, etc. over the years between Andrew’s death in 1809 and 1813. Two of the more interesting expenses of the administrators were gallons of rum, purchased for when the real estate was being divided, and quite a few trips to Canada, probably to collect money owed to Diver there.
Both the 14-page inventory and the many pages listing the disposition of the items on the inventory, as well as a list of the creditors of and the debts due by the estate are included in the probate file, now located in the archives of the Rensselaer County Historical society in Troy. The inventory seems to have been done just as the appraisers walked around the property, the fields, outbuildings, and the house itself, not really organized. The Divers definitely had had a working farm, and Andrew died in the midst of summer, with crops in the field.
The first page begins with many farm tools, from an ox chain to a new hand saw and four hay forks, but with “1 sword” in the middle of the list. The second page includes a woolen wheel, listed just before a cabbage knife, then “1 side of upper leather,” In the midst page 8, I found the most valuable item owned by the Divers, “1 Negro Wooman,” listed just after 9 Chairs worth $2.36, and an old ax, worth $.25. She was valued at $200. A second slave, also listed as a “Negro Woman,” was listed on page 5, and worth just $70. This jibes with the 1800 census, which indicates that Andrew Diver had two slaves.
Another page of the probate file records the purchase of “a pair of shoes for the black girl” for $1.75 on August 9, 1809, just after Andrew’s death. It could be that the woman valued less was either young and untrained or too old to do much work. Cornelius Lansing bought the higher valued woman from the estate for $115 in February 1810.
The inventory really illuminates the farming activity of the Divers. After the slaves, the next most valuable items were the animals and the crops, many still in the fields. Andrew had 6 swine, 1 beef cow, 1 3-year-old bull, 1 2-year-old bull, 1 2-year-old heifer, 1 1-year-old heifer, 3 milch (milk) cows, 44 sheep, 1 gelded horse, 1 young bay mare, 1 old bay mare, and 4 “calfs.” There was no poultry listed, but there were 2 bags of feathers, so I wonder if the chickens, ducks, and geese were not worth counting, or had been removed from the farm. I also wonder if the bulls were used as oxen, as there was lots of equipment for driving oxen and an ox cart listed. There were also several “slays.”
The crops included 5 ½ bushels of sowing oats, 6 bushels of sowing buckwheat, half of that in the field, 48 bushels of sowing wheat within the field, and 2 bushels of sowing rye. I assume that these grains listed as within the field needed to be harvested. There were also $40 worth of corn and $7.50 of potatoes in the field, plus 6 stacks of hay in the north field and 2 in the west field.
The equipment to manage the animals, and to plant, harvest, and process these products was on the inventory as well. For example, there was a fanning mill to separate wheat from chaff; 14 pounds of wool yarn, wool cards, and a wool wheel, and woad for dying fabric; a meat tub; various pieces of leather; and a grind stone. There were pointers to other farm products as well: a barrel of cabbage and a cabbage knife; a sack of dried apples and iron bound hogsheads in the cider house; a flax brake, used to process flax and a bag of tow yarn(tow is the waste of linen, used to make rope; an iron bound churn; soap kettles; “tryed” tallow, ready to be made into candles and finished candles; various pieces of wood of different types, for example “redwood;” and 4 pounds of beeswax plus a straw bee hive. The Divers could have been very self-sufficient, producing their own meat, grain, fibers for knitting and weaving, honey, and other food. There were 17 baskets on the inventory- they could have been homemade as well.
Some of the items on the inventory were definitely purchased, however. There were many farm tools and household implements made of iron, from fire tongs to plows, which would have been made by blacksmiths. There were a number of hogsheads, probably made by a cooper. There was a tobacco box, whose contents would have been purchased. There were brass kettles and a copper tea kettle, plus 2 tin pails, 4 sugar boxes and 28 pounds of sugar, plus 1 bottle of spirits of turpentine, 14 pounds of bohea tea and several tea boxes, a pepper box, and 7 bushels of salt, valued at $1 per bushel. Salt would have been used to preserve food as well as for seasoning,
For what had been a large family, the Divers had little table ware, just 6 forks,6 knives, and 6 spoons of pewter, 14 “hard metal spoons,” 2 glass tumblers, one pint and one quart pewter mug, and a number of tea pots. There were several platters of earthenware, and one of pewter, plus a large earthenware bowl, and at least 6 other “boles.” I find 10 pewter plates on the inventory. None of the kitchenware was of silver. The only somewhat luxurious items I found were 5 “jappan” canisters, a looking glass, and a set of tea cups and saucers. Without any further description, it’s hard to know how fancy the tea cups and mirror were. Japanning is the treatment of either pottery or tinware with layers of heavy black laquer, heat-dried in between, so while the canisters would have been pretty, they were not made of valuable material.
Turning to the household furnishings, the Divers had a number of beds plus their mattresses and hangings, which were among the most valuable possessions of people at the time. There were lots of wool blankets and wool and linen sheets plus many pillows and pillow cases to go with the beds. There were chests of wood, and an “iron bound chest,” and my favorite item on the list, “1 rocking cradle with what is in it.” I trust that wasn’t a baby! Several tables were also on the list, unfortunately not further described. There were nine chairs and just one arm chair. There were no listings for benches or case pieces of furniture, like an armoire or a desk.
There were also a number of pieces of fabric on the inventory: 5 yards of woolen check, 1 ½ yards of flannel, 2 ½ yards of black silk, 2 ½ yards of striped cotton, 23 yards of calico. Only the wool could have been home made. Remembering Eve Diver’s wardrobe inventory, she had a number of garments of calico, plus a cloak and handkerchief of black silk. It certainly seems that lots of clothing and textile production went on in the house. The list also included a set of shoemaker’s tools.
Also on the list was Andrew Diver’s wardrobe. He had 5 pairs of trousers, 2 woolen and 3 “old;” 5 shirts, 2 linen, 1 muslin, and 2 woolen; 3 vests, one woolen and 2 “old;” 3 short coats (like suit jackets), 2 great coats(like an overcoat);and 1 “french” coat. I don’t know what that meant. Andrew had evidently made the transition from the breeches, buckled just below the knee, which men wore in the 18th century, to long trousers. The shirts probably would have been almost knee length and done double duty as night shirts. He also had 2 pairs of shoes and just one hat, plus 7 pairs of stockings and one pair leggings, 2 pairs of mittens, and one belt. He had 7 silk handkerchiefs, several black. There were also 2 “china shalls”, which must have been Eve’s. Andrew had 3 pairs of “specks”, presumably eyeglasses- which had a total value of only $.80. Besides the silk handkerchiefs, the only sign of conspicuous consumption was one pair of silver shoe buckles. And he would have needed some kind of buckles for his shoes in any case. This seems like a fairly modest wardrobe for a wealthy man.
This account only begins to look this extensive inventory. There were a few items which I found surprising, including one knapsack and one umbrella. Knapsack is a word of 16th century German origin, and its use may reflect Eve’s German ancestry. I didn’t realize how old the term was. Umbrellas at the time were generally used to shade a lady’s fair skin, rather than to keep off rain, so that was probably Eve’s possession, and another small luxury.
Andrew had one gun, not described more fully, as well as powder and shot for it. It would be surprising if he didn’t have a gun on what had been the frontier until recently. I am surprised that the Divers had no books, not even a Bible. Eve could not write, and perhaps couldn’t read either, but I would have expected at least a family Bible. Evidently there was no clock in the house, nor any pictures on the walls. There was a huge quantity of fabric and yarn, but no mention of needles for sewing or knitting. Of course the unknowns of this are the competence of the appraisers and the possibility that heirs could have removed items before the inventory was conducted.
A Woman’s Belongings
By Chris Kelly
Eve’s file inventories just her clothing. I wish the inventory had been conducted by a woman, who might have given more detail, but two men, John and Henry Graberger, Jr., made the list.
This is an interesting view into a closet of a well-off farm wife of c. 1800. I have to think she had many more clothes than the average woman. Also, we think of rural women of the late 18th century making most of their clothes, but almost all of Eve’s clothing was made of silk or calico, both imported materials at the time. A few items were of linen, which could have been made in the U.S. but not in the Schaghticoke area at the time, and a few of wool, which could have been home-produced. In addition, Eve died as an elderly woman, so would have had many years to amass her wardrobe, and probably would have been relatively conservative in her dress. The list reflects 18th rather than 19th century fashion, very much what we would call “colonial costume.”
Eve had two garments of silk, the most expensive material- a short gown and a skirt. A short gown would have been the top half of a dress connected to a short skirt, which would have to be worn over a long skirt. She had four other short gowns, material not specified, plus twelve calico short gowns. Eve also had two long gowns of calico. Calico was a printed cotton fabric, so we can imagine Eve dressed in a variety of patterns. She also had one loose gown made of wool, and one of “stuff”, which was also wool. Loose gowns, as the name implies, were not fitted to the body- good for pregnant and/or chunky ladies, or for more casual dress. And she had several skirts, one black, which would certainly have gone well under all those calico short gowns, and one calico.
Women at the time wore a shift next to the skin- like a slip- and varying numbers of petticoats under the skirts of their gowns. Eve had three shifts of unspecified material and one shift of linen. She had eighteen petticoats of unspecified material, plus one of striped linen, one calico, one of wool, and one of “stuff.” One common undergarment not mentioned in the inventory is a corset, commonly worn over the shift but under the gown. I don’t know why Eve didn’t have one. Though they were becoming old-fashioned by 1810, the types of garments she wore would have called for one.
Eve would have used a separate pocket, threaded on a cord and tied around her waist, to hold her daily necessities, much like a woman’s purse today. The pocket could either be very decorative and worn on top of her petticoats and gown, or plainer, and worn under those garments, accessible through slits. Eve had ten calico pockets, providing a wealth of daily choice as she dressed.
Women wore shawls instead of sweaters to add a layer of warmth, and mantels or cloaks instead of coats in cold weather. Eve had a variety of shawls, from one described as “needlework,” presumably embroidered; to one of “chintz”, another printed cotton; one of purple, and one just described as “new.” She did have a black coat, plus a scarlet cloak, and one of black silk, plus a mantel of calico.
Eve also had a number of accessories. She had 21 handkerchiefs, mostly of muslin, but one of silk, and one black. Certainly some of those would have been large enough to be worn around the neck and tucked into the bodice of a dress, both for modesty and warmth. She also had 13 pairs of stockings, 2 knitted. She had just one pair of gloves, made of silk, plus two red ribbons. Women wore aprons both as decorations and as utilitarian garments. Eve had just two aprons, both checked. Perhaps one of the family slaves did most of the cooking.
Given the wealth of the rest of her wardrobe, I find it surprising that the inventory lists just one pair of “old” shoes and one “old” bonnet. Women wore some sort of head covering all the time- usually a mob cap of some sort indoors with a bonnet put over it for going out, and the inventory also includes ten caps.
And Eve had just three pieces of jewelry: a chain of beads, a chain of black beads, and a chain of gold beads. The gold beads had the second highest value of any item on the inventory: $7.00. The most valuable garment was the black silk cloak, worth $15. The scarlet cloak was worth $6.00.
I would love to read some inventories of the clothing of other women who died around the same time as Eve- of different economic levels. My previous reading lead me to think that most women had few changes of clothing, where Eve had quite a few. Also, most of her clothes would have been made of purchased fabric, rather than the homespun we think of for colonial era garments. But it is odd that she had just the one pair of shoes and one bonnet- perhaps she had given away some of her clothing? And no earrings? Perhaps she had given away jewelry as well? This is just one more time when we wish we could talk to those long-deceased people face-to-face.
My conclusion is that these were hard working people who lived a very basic life. Andrew, even at age 74, had planted extensive crops of a number of kinds, and kept enough animals to supply meat and wool. Eve, at 64, was busy making cloth and clothes, preparing meals, and preserving the farm produce. They lived a life without frills. I find it thought-provoking to compare their belongings with my own and those of people around me.